Romans roamed the Kujawy region of Poland: new discoveries

An unprecedented discovery has for the first time placed the Roman legions in the Polish region of Kujawy, much further outside the Roman Empire’s borders than had previously been assumed.

Treasure hunters searching an area between Toruń and Bydgoszcz stumbled across equestrian gear and legionnaire outfits from around 2000 years ago – proving for the first time that Roman soldiers were active in the area.

Archaeologists alerted to the findings then ventured into the area themselves and carried out excavations and surface surveys. The team, led by Marcin Rudnicki from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw, went on to discover further objects of a similar nature.

"Among the many donated metal objects there were also numerous fittings made of copper alloy, which turned out to be decorations for equestrian gear and Roman legionnaire clothing, many of them unique to this part of Europe," says Dr. Bartosz Kontny, who identified the finds.

Excavation in the area of Gąski and Wierzbiczany. (Photo by M. Rudnicki) 

Objects of particular note were metal pendants which decorated the straps of the Roman horse gear. In the shape of phalluses or vulvas, these amulets were believed to ensure happiness and protect against evil forces, says Dr. Kontny.

The archaeologist similarly singled out a gold-plated copper application for a hip belt. Depicting a spear of a beneficiarius, a high-ranking officer of the Roman army, "It was an attribute of his power," says Kontny.

Such a large accumulation of similar Roman objects in other places in barbarian Europe - for example in central Germany (where, for example, the local population was recruited into the legions), is clearly associated with a physical Roman presence.

"However, there are only a few places like this in Europe," notes the archaeologist. In his opinion, such a large accumulation of objects related to the Roman presence in Kujawy shows that this area had to be a regional cultural and social centre. "This could also be connected with the amber road - the Romans valued this material," he adds.

At the end of the classical period, the Romans may have ventured into Kujawy to recruit soldiers from among the Germans - during this period, barbarians, people from outside the Roman Empire, also served in the legions.